After writing about our high water bilge alarms, I got some questions about what we carry to stop a major leak . . . either a failed thru-hull or a crack/hole in the hull itself.
Let’s face it: if water is coming in, it has to be stopped. Bilge pumps will quickly be overwhelmed – they can buy you some time and they can get water out after you’ve stopped or significantly slowed the water down, but they aren’t going to save the boat by themselves.See the sidebar for a couple really eye-opening videos showing techniques for dealing with water incursion. Simply put, some of the techniques we’ve all heard about just take too long to implement . . . and some others work surprisingly well. As you watch the videos, think about the time it takes to set these up and remember that (a) they know the emergency is about happen and (b) everything is out and ready to go.
EMERGENCY SUPPLIES WE CARRY TO STOP A LEAK
You can do a lot to stop water intrusion with just cushions and odd bits you find on the boat. But a few items designed to stop leaks can come in handy, especially if you have to travel any distance before the problem can really be fixed.
Wood Bungs – Soft wood plugs can be pushed/pounded into a failed through hull (almost like a large cork) and do a good job of stopping the water. There should be one tied near each through hull (not just sea cocks) such that it can be quickly grabbed and used in an emergency.
Remember to put one on every drain and holes that are normally above the waterline, too – if the boat takes on some water, these could end up below the waterline and you wouldn’t water to enter here as well as in the problem areas! We have them for all thru-hulls and a bag of extras, too.
You can get these from a number of places. If you’re ordering other things from Defender, they have good prices (shipping will eat up the savings if not part of a larger order); otherwise Amazon has sets for both large plugs and smaller:
- Amazon set of 10 smaller plugs (1/2” to 1-1/2” max plug size – up to about 1-1/4” thru hull or hole)
- Amazon set of 9 larger plugs (holes from about 1” to 1-3/4”)
- Defender set of six plugs for holes 1/2” to 2”
Forespar Sta-Plug – This is a fairly firm still yet still pliable foam plug (the red thing in the photo at top) that can be used in thru-hulls and also in larger hull breaches, including ones with irregular shapes. The base of the plug is 5” in diameter; it could probably plug holes to 4” in diameter and slow the flow in larger odd-shaped ones (you can also use more than one to fill large holes). These are fairly new on the market – an earlier version had smooth sides; the ridging on these makes them seal better. We have two on board – they can be compressed by hand and/or twisted some to insert them into holes, but it does take a bit of strength to do so.
Again, they can be purchased at most marine chandleries at widely varying prices. We bought one from Defender as part of a larger order and one from Amazon when we decided we wanted a second:
Hull Survivor Emergency Hull Seal – a 10” diameter circle that can be deployed from inside or outside the boat to cover larger holes or cracks. Uses the pressure of the water outside the hull to hold it in place and also can be tied in place from the inside and sealed with epoxy from the outside. If you watched the first video in the sidebar above, it’s similar to their tying a line to a cushion and pulling it against the hull, except that this is faster to deploy as there’s nothing to set up.
It’s a fairly new product and I don’t find any reviews, but I like the idea that it’s flexible and can be rolled up and then deployed from inside the boat. We have helped with saving two sinking boats (when we were in the Sea of Cortez) and one of the problems with both is that it took divers to apply patches to the outside of the hull. That takes time. This seems like it’d be much faster to deploy – as well as safer (diving under a boat with wave action can cause serious head injuries).
I’ve only seen them on Amazon:
Splash Zone Epoxy – Splash Zone will cure underwater (or in air) and can be applied to wet surfaces with no surface preparation. It also can be used on most surfaces that boats are made of – fiberglass, steel, aluminum, wood and even cement. It is designed to be mixed by hand and with “approximately equal” amounts of the two parts. Perfect for emergencies. Good for sealing a patch. I’ve seen it in action twice where it saved a boat. It comes in several sizes; we carry a half gallon. If you need it, you want enough.
IMPORTANT: Splash Zone comes with Part A and Part B held together with a plastic connector. Take this off before storing it. Be careful not to hole the can! It’s a bear to get off (at least ours was) and took Dave about 15 minutes to cut it off. In an emergency, you want it NOW.
We store all our emergency supplies in an under-the-floor storage compartment just inside the door to the cockpit. In an emergency, you want them in a very convenient place!